Tag Archives: search engine optimization

What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?

wordpress categories

Part 5 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

WordPress categories and tags are confusing. They seem to do the same thing and offer similar results.

WordPress Category

A category is like a file cabinet drawer for your posts where you place related content. Categories are general groupings of broad topics. Our site (or blog) should have at least three categories (else, why bother) but no more than perhaps eight (else, it’s too hard to find things).

Each post needs one—and only one—category. Just as you wouldn’t try to put one piece of paper in two folders, don’t assign one post to two categories. (I understand using multiple categories for one post can mess up search engine optimization, and no one wants that.)

Last, never default to “uncategorized.” That’s just lazy and doesn’t help anyone.

Word Press Tag

Think of a tag as a cross-reference tool. Tags can be a subset of a category (like a folder in a file cabinet), transcend categories (like an index), or both. Regardless, their purpose is to link related content. Every post needs at least one tag and can have more, but don’t go crazy. One or two is great, three is okay but definitely stop at six.

In determining tags, consider reoccurring themes or words in your posts. Unlike categories, you don’t need to limit the number of tags you use, but do seek tags you will reuse. A tag used only once accomplishes nothing.

Also, a tag is not the same as a keyword. Keywords are used (or more correctly, were used) to indicate main topics within a post, whereas tags link related posts.

(In case you’re wondering, I wrote many posts on this blog before I understood the difference between tags and keywords, so I have many tags used only once; I will remove or consolidate them – when I have time.)

This blog has seven categories and 231 tags (though once I redo the tags, it will be closer to 50). This post is in the category of “Tips” and has three tags: “blogging,” SEO” and “WordPress.”

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

The Art and Science of Search Engine Optimization

Good SEO gets people to go to your website, but good content will keep them there

An important aspect of author websites is attracting visitors, people who will actually read your information and consider buying your books. However, having a great site, with cool graphics, and the latest technological innovations means nothing if no one besides your friends and family actually goes there.

The Art and Science of Search Engine Optimization

Enter search engine optimization (SEO): the art and science of getting people to your author website. Just remember that once they arrive, it takes good content to keep them there.

I invest a lot of time and energy into SEO for my websites. Generally, the results are good, with monthly increases in traffic, but occasionally I work hard to make recommended changes only to see no bump in visitors.

SEO applies to both static website pages and blog posts. However, sometimes the best course of action is to not tweak some blog posts for specific search terms or phrases. Instead, just focus on good content and let it attract the people who are most interested. After all, they are the ones most likely to stick around to read more and then tell others about your site. That makes for some great word-of-mouth recommendations.

Even so, you do want to work carefully to optimize the other pages of your website for SEO, especially your home page, about page, and contact page. You should give special attention to your book pages, too. They need SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of getting people to your website. Click To Tweet

If you have an author website, don’t just post good content, optimize it for search engines.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

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Blogs and Links: The Art of Helping Readers and Improving SEO

Great writing is essential to successful blogging. Using links when we blog helps us better serve our readers and aids in search engine optimization (SEO), which lets more readers find our work.

This blogging tip has three considerations:

Link to past relevant posts: Within a post, link key words or key phrases back to other relevant posts or tags, (as I did with “blogging tip”). This makes it easy for readers to read more about the subject, discover background, or explore related posts.

A variation of this is to include “related posts” at the end of each post. As a bonus, once setup, this happens automatically, so it requires no extra work or thought. The results are usually quite good, provided we have a sufficient number of posts in our blog.

Link past posts to the current one: This SEO strategy increases the SEO standing of a new post because existing pages link to it. As a bonus, when someone discovers those older posts, they will see a link to the new one.

Include a link when commenting: Another SEO strategy is to go to other blogs of interest or that our audience might read. Make relevant comments on those posts.

For most blogs, the commenters’ name automatically links to their site (assuming they provided that information when they posted their comment). This link should be to our home page or main blog page.

Sometimes it’s acceptable to include a link to a specific post when we comment. We must do this with extreme care. Make sure the link is relevant and adds to the discussion. Shameless self-promotion will result in disaster.

When commenting, don’t leave a generic comment (such as “great post” or “I agree”) and never ever leave a nonsensical one. The comment should advance the discussion or share relevant information. There should be no doubt we read the post and considered our response. (I hope you will take a moment and comment on this post!)

I do a good job at the first and last suggestions, but usually forget the middle one.

How do you use links when blogging? What other ideas do you have?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

Don’t Forget Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on Your Blog

Another blogging tip is to optimize posts for search engines. As we already covered, the post should be at least 200 words long for search engines to have enough content to analyze. Also, making a post scannable helps, too, especially when we use bold or add a headline tag to subheadings (an easy step I often forget); use H2.

The post title needs to be search-engine friendly, as well as interesting to readers. For example, using “Optimize Before Posting” as a title for this post may intrigue readers, but it wouldn’t help search engines. Conversely, one that search engines would love but not so much readers, might be: “WordPress Blogging Success: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Improves Discoverability”

Many people tell bloggers to research keywords and key phrases to scatter throughout a post. I don’t. I write the best post I can for people and hope search engines like it, too. Though I do try to include words and phrases I might use if I were doing a search on the topic.

Publicizing our posts (which we’ll discuss in two weeks) also helps SEO. Legitimate links from other sites to our posts improve SEO ranking. Also, link to other posts and from other posts.

We need a sitemap. All you really need to know about sitemaps is that search engines expect them and that a plugin can automatically make them. I use Google XML Sitemaps but there are others, too.

Lastly, we need an SEO plugin. There are several options, but I use All in One SEO Pack. This allows me to add three behind-the-scenes SEO elements:

  • Title tag, which can be different than the post title. Write a title tag that is descriptive to readers and keyword-rich for search engines. Use up to 60 characters.
  • Meta description is displayed in search engine results and some social media platforms. It should interest readers and abound with keywords and phrases. It can be up to 160 characters, and I try to use them all.
  • Meta keywords are reportedly not used by major search engines anymore. However, I still enter a few just to be safe, but I only spend a few seconds doing so.

Publishing a post without considering SEO is like writing a book and not telling anyone. We crave readers, and these SEO tips will help us find more.

What other SEO tips do you have? What SEO changes do you need to make?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

How Long Should Your Blog Posts Be?

Another key to successful blogging is to write like Goldilocks: not too long, and not too short, but just right. But how long is that?

Although writers often grumble at my answer, I’ve never heard one complaint from a reader. Readers are who we need to please: posts should be 200 to 300 words long. That’s right, just a couple hundred words. Shorter is okay, but aim for at least 100. Longer is risky, but definitely keep it under 500. I get nervous if my posts pass 300 and edit ruthlessly when they approach 400. Having penned 1,500 posts, I’ve only exceeded 500 words once – because I was asked.

Here’s why we need 200 to 300-word posts:

Attention Span: Readers have short attention spans. They’re likely to become a distracted halfway through a lengthy post—and bail. Or they might never even start.

Time: When a reader has ten things to do and only enough time for five, they make choices. A shorter post has a better chance of being read.

Quality: It’s easy to write a long post; it’s harder to write a short one. Long posts often ramble; short posts make every word count. Rabbit trails get deleted; extraneous phrases have no place in the land where brevity is king.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Search engines need a couple of hundred words to form an opinion. Anything under 200 and there’s not enough to evaluate. Yes, some successful bloggers write short posts, but they don’t rely on SEO.

Consider This: USA Today found success with shorter articles because that’s what people wanted. By the way, this post is 294 words.

How long are your posts? Does the thought of writing less make you cringe?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

Four Elements of a Successful Blog Post: Use Each Component to Maximize Results

Last week, I shared eight reasons why every writer should blog and also linked to my new series on setting up and using WordPress. Today, I want to look at the four key components of a successful post.

Title: What might make for a great article title may not be a great blog title. Blog titles need to appeal to both readers and search engines. When blogging, avoid short titles and don’t use a play on words, a clever twist, or provocative thought. The title must make it clear what the post is about, include words a search engine will like and make the best use of the space. Here are some formulas for what works well:

  • Answer a question, as in “How to…”
  • Ask a question, as in “Why people…”
  • Give a numbered list, which I’ve done in this post.
  • Use a title and subtitle format, which I’ve also done in this post.

Content: What we write in the body of our post is critical. As they say, “content is king.” We’ll talk more about this in future posts, but briefly, our posts must be well written, carefully proofed, concise, and scannable.

Category: Each post needs a category, which is like a folder of similar posts. Always pick one category for each post; don’t use the default of “uncategorized.” We want a handful of carefully considered categories, appropriate to our blog’s theme. I recommend at least three but no more than eight. Using categories focuses our thoughts, organizes our work, and helps readers find related posts. Plus, I understand categories help search engines.

Tag: I once thought a tag was synonymous with keywords, but they are different. A tag is a word or short phrase that connects one post with similar posts. One SEO expert said to use no more than six tags, but another said one is ideal. I recommend one or possibly two tags per post. I also pick tags I’ll likely use again. Tags help readers discover other content on our blogs and can aid search engines.

Most bloggers focus on content, but give little thought to the title, may sometimes use a category, and usually skip tags. Yes, these extra considerations may distract from writing great content, but with practice, they will come quickly and take little extra time.

Which of these four elements do you struggle with? What advice would you add?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

Three More Tips for Your Book-Promoting Platform

In using your website as the foundation of your book-selling, platform-building initiative, there are several key points to follow. The first three are to make it mobile responsive, remove clutter, and delete slow plugins. That is, to pursue a minimalist design; less is more.

Here are three more website tips:

  • Fix Broken Links: Broken links – be it internal links to other pages on your site or external links to other websites – are disrespectful to visitors. At the very least, broken links will frustrate them and at the worst, cause them to leave. Search engines also don’t like broken links. If they find broken links on your site, they will lower your ranking and thereby suggest your site to fewer people. Fortunately, there are programs that can search for and notify you of broken links so you can fix them.
  • Implement SEO Best Practices: Books have been written detailing search engine optimization (SEO), so a brief blog post won’t cover everything. But the basics are to use alt tags on your graphics, appropriately include your targeted keywords in your content, consider both people and search engines when writing your titles and include a good description and relevant keywords. Whatever you do, don’t try to game the system, because you will eventually be caught and penalized.
  • Keep Your Site Up-To-Date and Regularly Add New Content: Regular visitors (your biggest supporters) and search engines both like to see new content on your site. Keep them happy with regular posts. Also, be sure to remove outdated information so you don’t frustrate visitors.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll talk about the importance of capturing email addresses.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

The First Step in Building Your Platform

After you write and publish your book, the next step is to promote it. This requires a platform.

However, don’t build your platform around a social media site. You can’t control that. Overnight they could change the rules, limit your reach, make you pay to be seen, or even summarily turn off your account. Then, you’ve lost the platform you worked hard to build.

Instead, make your website the home base for your platform, a website you control and own. Then use social media as a tool to point people to your site.

So, the first step in building your platform is to have a website – or fix your existing one. Do this before you spend another moment on social media or even think about growing your platform or reach.

On your website:

  • Make your site responsive to mobile devices.
  • Remove the clutter.
  • Delete slow plugins.
  • Fix all broken links.
  • Implement SEO best practices.
  • Keep your site up-to-date and regularly add new content.
  • Capture visitor email addresses.
  • Link to your social media sites and other online content – and link them back.
  • Integrate your blog with your site, and make it your primary means to interact with followers.

Once you complete these steps, then, and only then, should you work to build out your platform.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]

Seven Tips For Successful Blogging

Seven Tips For Successful Blogging

If blogging is a form of self-publishing, then is writing a blog post the same as other writing? Well, yes and no. While there are similarities, there are also some key differences.

If you want to blog, here are seven blogging tips to be a successful blogger:

1) Make Your Title Search Engine Friendly: Forget clever titles. They may work well in a magazine, but they fail to work in the online world. Instead, aim for SEO (search engine optimization) and to get readers’ attention. If search engines don’t like you, no one will find you.

2) Have One Point Per Post: The point of this post is how to blog successfully. The sub-points reinforce that. Anything else is a distraction.

3) Keep it Short: Our online attention span is fleeting, so keep posts succinct. Since search engines need about 300 words to index a page, use that size as a minimum. Lengths of 300 to 500 words is a good goal—unless your readers like long-form content.

4) Use Lists: Numbered lists or bullet points make your post easy to read. (Like this post.)

5) Be Scannable: People tend to scan while reading online. The careful use of bold text aids in scanning. Sometimes italics helps, but avoid underlining because it looks like a link. And skip using all caps because it looks like you’re SCREAMING.

6) Link to Your Blog: When you make relevant comments on other blogs, link back to yours. But never spam them or leave generic feedback; it will end up biting you. Also, link from one post to another, as I did in the opening sentence.

7) Ask For Comments: Blogs are about engagement. Ask a question to start the conversation. Though I vacillate on this, if you want comments on your blog, you need to encourage readers to share their thoughts.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

[Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get you copy today.]